Merrilees to face The Greatest at the World Championships

KIERAN MERRILEES was today wondering whether he had woken up to a dream or a nightmare when he was drawn to face China’s badminton legend Lin Dan in the opening round of the men’s singles after the draw for the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017 took place at the new BWF Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The five-times Scottish National champion has never met the five-times World and double Olympic champion but the draw guarantees the Glasgow man his place in the spotlight when the Championships get under way on Monday 21 August. It has yet to be confirmed whether he plays on day one or day two at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.

European champion and England’s two-time Scottish Open winner Rajiv Ouseph is the 16th seed and is likely to be waiting for the winner in the third round.

Lin Dan is drawn in the same half as Korean top seed Son Wan Ho while Olympic and two-time defending World champion Chen Long and Rio 2016 bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen are both in the bottom half along with Malaysian second seed Lee Chong Wei, who comes to Glasgow bidding for the gold medal that has eluded him throughout his career.

Merrilees is joined in the men’s singles by team-mate and 2016 National champion Matthew Carder, who faces Vladimir Malkov in the opening round. The Scot is boosted by the fact that he won their only previous meeting 21-13 21-17 in the Finnish Open earlier this year even though the Russian is ranked much higher.

Women’s singles

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour, who won the Commonwealth silver medal in the Emirates Arena three years ago, has a promising start. The 16th seed has an opening round bye and will then meet Finland’s Airi Mikkela or India’s Rituparna Das. But the big obstacle will come in the last 16 when she should face China’s sixth seed He Bingjiao.

Gilmour has never played Mikkela or Das and won her only meeting with Bingjiao 21-16 21-18 at the Syed Modi International in January last year.

Spain’s Olympic and double world champion Carolina Marin also starts with a bye before the third seed faces Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin or Russian Natalia Perminova. Marin is in the bottom half of the draw and is seeded to meet Korea’s second seed Sung Ji Hyun in the semi-finals.

Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi is in the top half of the draw as No. 1 seed. She is in the same quarter as 2013 world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand while India’s Olympic runner-up Pusarla Sindhu is the likely semi-final obstacle.

Men’s doubles

Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh are Scotland’s hopes in the men’s doubles and start against Dutch pair Jacco Arends and Ruben Jille.

The passionate home crowd can play a big part in cheering on Campbell and MacHugh and a win will earn them a second-round clash with 2014 European champions and 2016 Yonex All England winners Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov, who are well known to home fans as former Scottish Open champions.

The Scots have never played either pair.

The draw also features GB’s Olympic bronze medallist Chris Langridge and Marcus Ellis and the 14th seeds start with a bye and should be capable of more than living up to their seeding.

Women’s doubles

Scotland have two pairs in the women’s doubles. Rebekka Findlay and Caitlin Pringle open their challenge against France’s Emilie Lefel and Anne Tran with Denmark’s 15th seeds Maiken Fruergaard and Sara Thygesen awaiting the winners.

Julie MacPherson and Eleanor O’Donnell, the Scottish National champions, start against Swiss player Nadia Frankhauser and Malaysian Sannatasah Saniru.

The two Scottish pairs have never played their opening opponents.

Mixed doubles

Campbell and MacPherson are the only Scots playing in two events and they have been drawn against Sweden’s Nico Ruponen and Amanda Hogstrom in the first round. They have never met but it will be a tough test for the Edinburgh partnership against a pair ranked in the top 33.

The other home nations pair to watch is Chris and Gabby Adcock. The European champions won their Commonwealth title in the Emirates Arena in 2014 and England’s No. 5 seeds should not be tested until they face 11th seeds Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara – although the Japanese pair may have to overcome Campbell and MacPherson in the second round first!

Anne Smillie, Chief Executive of BADMINTONscotland, said: “Our players are going to face some tough examinations but this, after all, is a World Championships.

“While Kieran faces the toughest match of all our players, he must be really excited at playing one of the sport’s greatest ever stars for the first time.

“It all adds up to a tremendous week of badminton and Glasgow is ready to make it a memorable occasion for players and fans.”

The TOTAL BWF Badminton World Championships 2017 will be staged at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena from 21-27 August.

It is being delivered by BADMINTONscotland in partnership with Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council and with funding support from EventScotland and The National Lottery through UK Sport.

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